An Important Date:
Marking a death and looking for signs of life

Founder’s Musings   •   January 12, 2022

Copyright, 2022, Allison Peacock

The parents of Holly Marie Clouse

The calls began coming in yesterday as word circulated that the Harris County Institute for Forensic Sciences closed the case of a husband and wife identified in October, thus opening the way for media interviews. I was on the team that made the identifications while serving as a forensic genealogist for Identifinders International.

While recording a video interview about the case with Xavier Walton of Houston’s KHOU TV, he mentioned the date of the forensic sketches I sent him.

“So, January 12, that’s exactly 41 years today.”

I was puzzled about the meaning he assigned to the date, todays date! “Look at the sketches,” he said.

Sure enough in tiny lettering in the corner of the forensic sketch was the date: January 12, 1981. I shouldn’t have been stunned but I was. I immediately got goosebumps and told him I needed a minute.

Suddenly the note I got from our former John Doe, Dean’s sister made sense. “January 12th will never be the same for me,” she messaged me and shared a poem she wrote about her feelings.

This case has just been like that for me. And for the family, too, I think. Coincidences and miracles abound, not all of them can be discussed publicly.

What are the odds that I’d talk to a journalist about the forensic sketches on the precise date they were made, years later? In order to respond to his questions about the progression of the case and when the sketches were made, I looked up those details in my notes about the case to see when their bodies were actually discovered.

Dean’s hand was discovered in a Houston garage on Wallisville Road on January 6 by a dog who had removed it from another unknown location. After several days of searching the adjacent woods, sheriffs deputies aided by a crew of prison trustees discovered his body along with that of his wife, Tina. During the autopsy that very day, forensic artist Mary Mise created the portraits after observing photos of their partially decomposed bodies. Looking at their actual post-identification photos and comparing them to the renderings fascinated Walton and we chatted about the portraits for a few minutes.

Another journalist writing for the Houston Chronicle asked me about how I personally felt about working on identifying Tina and returning news of her to her family in October.

It was very personal for me. If not for circumstance, I could be her. She could be me.

Anyone that does this kind of work will tell you that we always bond with our victims. Perhaps it’s knowing that they have no family until we give them a family, but they become ours. And we become their family.

Tina Linn Clouse could easily have been a schoolmate of mine. We were born just months apart – me in East Texas and Tina nearby in Oklahoma. So while she was being taken from her family by mindless violence in Houston, I was a few miles away feeling sorry for myself over the loss of my boyfriend and making plans to leave Baylor University to return home and try to reconcile with him.

I look at her photo a lot and imagine the small similarities and differences in our lives. It’s hard not to recognize the 1980’s haircut and tank tops. And the innocent love in her eyes that led her to follow her knight in shining armor to a far away land to start a new life – ultimately to circumstances that were more dangerous than she could have known.

Dean’s sister Tess’s comments to me this morning and the poem she sent suddenly took on a new meaning after marking the extraordinary date with the journalist. She perfectly sums up where she and the family are…where we all are – marking time looking for signs of life:

But we have a hope as a family which cannot be bound; its boundaries are without borders and limitless blessings in God’s presence are found.

Faith is simply believing in what you’ve hoped for even though the evidence is not seen.

But I heard prison doors close in a Heavenly realm while praying with my mother one day.

We have a hope in the day that justice will be served and we can lavish our love on sweet Holly Marie.

Discovering that one year old Holly Marie Clouse was not found with her parents’ bodies gives the family hope. It’s inspired me to shepherd DNA profiles for key family members on various consumer databases hoping that she’ll test one day.

And if she does, I have no doubt that this lavishing of love will indeed take place.

Holly Marie Clouse was just beginning to walk when her family last knew her whereabouts in 1980. (Clouse Family photo)

Part 1 of this story is found here.

Primary Post Photo: Dean and Tina Clouse were depicted by Houston forensic artist Mary Mise on January 12, 1981, the day that Tina’s body was discovered. She was a Jane Doe for 41 years. (Family History Detectives® composite of Harris County Medical Examiners office file photos)